Assessing the SAT

Assessing the SAT

Parents encourage their children to be themselves and do what's best for them, regardless of what their children's friends do, leading to the familiar rhetorical question: "If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you?" For years, Colby has been one of the selective liberal arts colleges in the Northeast to require SAT reasoning test scores. As some others have dropped the requirement, Colby has stood atop the bridge, looking down, contemplating the pros and cons. Now, even as the new SAT has been rolled out, Colby continues to assess the test's importance in the admissions process.

By Ruth Jacobs


 
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Unlike some of their counterparts at peer colleges, Colby students, like those seen here with Assistant Professor of English Daniel Contreras, must submit SAT I or ACT scores with their applications.
Meanwhile, Mark Freeman, Colby's director of institutional research, believes the College's SAT requirement is putting Colby at a disadvantage compared to peer schools that don't require the scores. Freeman's job is to compile and analyze institutional data to support decision making. Other colleges' experiences show that making the SAT optional increased their applicant pools. "If you've got more kids to choose from, and the score's not part of the mix,— Freeman said, "you're going to be looking at other things more closely.—

Some of those things, according to Freeman, might be specific talents, the contribution the student might make to campus life, or a student's desire to attend Colby—resulting in happier students and more loyal alumni. These qualities, of course, are carefully weighed in the current admissions process. Freeman believes the College could weigh these factors more heavily if SAT scores were not part of the mix.

Adams does not ignore any element of the equation. "There are broad institutional considerations that we're always thinking about as to whether or not it serves the competitive and strategic interests of the College,— he said.

Beverage stands by the SAT as a useful—albeit imperfect—tool to be used in conjunction with many other factors. Director of Admissions Steve Thomas concurs. "I think it's a very good gauge of a student's academic potential when you look at it in line with the other pieces,— he said. If anything speaks to their point, it's Colby's talented and motivated student body.

But some administrators at the College continue to ask privately whether the tradeoff is too great. "The most compelling reasons to consider not requiring the SAT have to do with arguments about the effects of the requirement on the diversity and size of the applicant pool,— said Adams. "Does requiring the test narrow the types and number of students that might apply to Colby? And does that consideration outweigh the value of the test in demonstrating academic preparation and performance? These are the key questions we are more or less steadily asking ourselves.— And there are no easy answers.